[ Wednesday May 24, 2006 - Category : General ]
Denmark, Latvia, Strasbourg
Having arrived at an age where there are more invitations to funerals than to weddings it was all the more enjoyable to attend the wedding ceremony in The Netherlands last Thursday for Tushara from Sri Lanka (she is the daughter of a Sri Lankan friend of mine) and Jos from The Netherlands. The bride looked gorgeous of course and the couple are now planning for the Sri Lankan wedding ceremony in Colombo – where they are supposed to invite everybody – so 300 guests are expected.
Together with President Barroso and Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, I visited Copenhagen last Friday. At 6 o‘clock in the morning I went for a jog along the water, in crisp air mixed with the smell of beer from pubs still open in Nyhavn. Then a breakfast meeting in the Parliament with the European Affairs committee, directly followed by a plenary session in the Folketinget. Several tough questions for all three of us on the sex slave trade, openness, agriculture and environment for example. Meeting with NGOs and a lecture at the University came next – and my impression is that the Danes are interested, critical but also well-informed about the EU. It was also clear that Denmark has used the ‘period of reflection‘ well to engage citizens in a thorough debate about Europe.
Two days later – two worlds in Latvia. On the one hand Riga, one of the fastest developing regions in the whole of the EU. Progress, development, growth – and a stunning city! On the other hand the countryside, with less progress and sometimes big social problems. I visited Skangale, Olof Palme‘s ancestral home that his family donated to the Salvation Army. After the Soviet occupation it was mostly in ruins, but now the Salvation Army has made it into a beautiful home for deprived children. Warm, friendly and caring with the heart. It filled me with joy and hope!
During the many meetings in Latvia I got a similar impression as in Denmark: people are interested in European questions, but sometimes critical towards how the policies are run. They have high expectations, and rightly so.
It ought to be the European Parliament who decides where they should meet! One can understand and respect the historical background for choosing Strasbourg as the location for the European Parliament – but today the practical problems – and costs! – connected with having two sites is overshadowing the symbolic value of it. Maybe, maybe with a new French president can a process start with constructive discussions also about “compensation“ in case the EP would choose to meet only in Brussels in the future…? There is a petition “oneseat.eu” going on right now – I see the address has been posted also in the Debate Europe site – with the aim of collecting one million signatures. Judging from the most common public reaction to this issue that might be possible…
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